2015.01.04 Acts 16: 4- 15
Finding the Will of God
Paul and Silas are led by the Spirit
Good morning! It´s great to be with you here this first Sunday in 2015. I hope that all of you had a blessed start to this new year…. Our subject today is very important….. Finding the Will of God…… We all want to find and know the will of God for us don´t we? I think that WE WILL GAIN SOME VERY IMPORTANT INSIGHT from Paul and Silas´ own experiences in our text today…. Let´s read the last 2 verses from last week to help us all remember the start of this second missionary journey….. Acts 16…v….4…
Acts 16: 4,5 NKJV SLT 2000
4 Then they went from town to town, instructing the believers to follow the decisions made by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem. 5 So the churches were strengthened in their faith and grew larger every day.
4 Dann zogen sie von Ort zu Ort und erklärten den Menschen, was die Apostel und Ältesten in Jerusalem im Blick auf die Gebote für die Nichtjuden beschlossen hatten.
5 So wurden die Gemeinden im Glauben gestärkt, und die Zahl der Gläubigen wurde von Tag zu Tag größer.
V 4,5…. So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and increased in number daily……. Paul was a great evangelist for sure….. But Paul's ministry was successful because his main goal was in strengthening and encouraging the churches…… let´s remind ourselves how he did that….
Paul taught the Word of God at every opportunity….. It is the Word of God that the Holy Spirit uses to make believers….. And to make new believers into committed disciples…. Committed disciples make strong churches…. Strong churches will naturally increase in number…… Evangelism will happen because the believers will tell the Good news as they live the Good News day by day…..
As we saw last week…. Paul chose Timothy to go on the mission with him…. Timothy was from Lystra and had been plugged in and serving there for at least five years now….. He was well reported of…. His brothers and sisters had been watching him….. They said to Paul…… Timothy is the real deal…. He is a Godly young man and he has a servants heart…. Paul said come with me and join in the work….
Paul and Silas and Timothy have been sent out again to proclaim the Good news…… We are studying the second missionary journey of Paul in these verses…. They start by going back where they had been…… to strengthen and encourage the new believers in the area of Galatia…. Let´s pick up where we left off last week…. Acts 16…v.6….
Acts 16: 6- 10 NKJV
6 Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. 7 After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit[a] did not permit them. 8 So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. 9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them.
Acts 16: 6- 10 SLT 2000
6 Als sie aber Phrygien und das Gebiet Galatiens durchzogen, wurde ihnen vom Heiligen Geist gewehrt, das Wort in [der Provinz] Asia zu verkündigen.
7 Als sie nach Mysien kamen, versuchten sie, nach Bithynien zu reisen; und der Geist ließ es ihnen nicht zu.
8 Da reisten sie an Mysien vorbei und kamen hinab nach Troas.
9 Und in der Nacht erschien dem Paulus ein Gesicht: Ein mazedonischer Mann stand vor ihm, bat ihn und sprach: Komm herüber nach Mazedonien und hilf uns!
10 Als er aber dieses Gesicht gesehen hatte, waren wir sogleich bestrebt, nach Mazedonien zu ziehen, indem wir daraus schlossen, daß uns der Herr berufen hatte, ihnen das Evangelium zu verkündigen.
v6… They were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia…… After strengthening the churches in the region, Paul seeks to go next to the immediate west, towards the important Asian city of Ephesus…... But Paul was forbidden by the Holy Spirit to go there…… Forbidden to proclaim the Good news by the Holy Spirit??
Paul was always eager to obey the Lord´s great commission….His sincere desire was to see people come to the Lord…… He wanted the Good News of the Gospel to be spread to the ends of the earth….. He was a great man of God….. He tried to go to Asia…. Specifically Ephesus…. But The Lord Himself closed the door….
How could the Holy Spirit possibly forbid the preaching of the word in Asia? It was not no…. It was not yet….. That is often the case….. We need desperately to learn to wait on the Lord…… Patience is what we need…..
God had a different plan and purpose for Paul at this moment….. There was certainly nothing wrong with Paul's desire to preach the word in Asia….. but it wasn't time yet……. so it was forbidden by the Holy Spirit…… Later He would be allowed to go to Asia….
v7,8….. They tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them……. After the attempt to go to Asia….. Paul sought to go north into Bithynia…… but is again prevented by the Holy Spirit…… So, they came down to Troas……
Paul did not intend to go to Troas…... It was the third choice for him…… But it was the Holy Spirit's plan to lead him there…... Paul shows that he is responsive to the Holy Spirit….. He is willing to lay down his own will…… and give up his plans…… for the direction that the Holy Spirit brought to him through circumstances……
Paul is being guided by closed doors…. The Holy Spirit often guides as much by closing doors as He does by opening doors……
v9…. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night…… While they ministered in Troas….. God makes Paul's direction clear……. In a vision….. Paul is "invited" to the region of Macedonia….. He is being called to travel across the Agean Sea to Macedonia……..
This moves Paul and his missionary team from the continent of Asia…….. to Europe……. this was the first missionary outreach to Europe…….
The wisdom and greatness of God's plan is beginning to unfold…… Paul only wanted to reach a few more cities in his region…... But God wanted to give Paul an entire continent to win for Jesus Christ…….
The Macedonian man wanted help…… So Paul went to bring Macedonia the gospel!
The greatest help we can bring anyone is the life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ!
We must be careful in our desire to do good for the poor and suffering….. That we don´t forget to proclaim the Good News at the same time….
Because without the gospel…… what real help have we given them?
v10a…. Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go….. Finally Paul sees an open door…. Paul did not hesitate to answer the call of the Macedonian man….. Paul's missionary team did not hesitate to follow him….. This was a strong, godly man…. leading a strong, godly team!......
God still calls people to the mission field…… Perhaps even today some will encounter a "Macedonia man" who will call them out to the mission field…… Would to God that those who hear a "Macedonian man" today will respond the way Paul and his team responded….!Paul and Silas were ready to go…. They were available…… Availability is the number 1 ability that the lord is seeking from us……. If we are willing…. He will send us…… And He Himself will lead us…. and He will equip us to do His work….
10b… Immediately we sought to go…. The shift from they (they came down to Troas, Acts 16:8) to we in this verse probably means that Luke joined the band of missionaries in Troas…… Perhaps he even came as Paul's personal doctor…..
Maybe there is another reason why they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia…… another reason why the Spirit did not permit them to go into Bithynia…… Some commentators’say and I also think that God wanted Paul and his team to go to Troas and pick up Luke……
If God had not closed the door to Paul these two times….. Maybe we would not have a gospel and the Book of Acts…. Both were written by Luke!
But of course all of this is hindsight…. At the time…. Paul had no idea of God's purpose….. He did not know that God wanted to give him a continent for Jesus…. or give him a personal doctor….. and to give all of us the man whom God would use to write more of the New Testament than anyone else did….. God always knows what He is doing when he says, "No." We often do not understand His no´s….. but there is always a good and perfect plan behind all that he does….
Finding and knowing God´s will…..
George Muller's thoughts on finding the will of God...
1. Surrender your own will….
Do not come to the Lord with an agenda when you are seeking to know His will for you!
George Müller said it this way…..
I seek at the beginning to get my heart into such a state that it has no will of its own in regard to a given matter….. Nine-tenths of the trouble with people generally is just here…… Nine-tenths of the difficulties are overcome when our hearts are completely ready to do the Lord's will…… whatever it may be…… When one is truly in this state….. it is usually just a little longer to the knowledge of what His will is…… But….
2. Do not depend on feelings…. Do not decide that your feelings are God´s leading….. those butterflies in your tummy may be the pizza that you ate…..
Müller….. Having done this….. I do not leave the result to feeling or simple impression……. If so, I make myself liable to great delusions…….
3. Seek, the Spirit's will through God's Word.
Müller… I seek the will of the Spirit of God through….. or in connection with….. the Word of God…... The Spirit and the Word must be combined….. If I look to the Spirit alone without the Word…. I lay myself open to great delusion also…… If the Holy Spirit guides us at all….. He will do it according to the Scriptures and never contrary to them…….
4. Note providential circumstances….. Open and closed doors can be from Him…
Next I take into account providential circumstances…… These often plainly indicate God's will in connection with His Word and Spirit……
I ask God in prayer to reveal His will to me aright.
6. Wait….. Wait on the Lord…..
Good advice from a man who experienced great things from the Lord…. Often through open and closed doors time after time…. God uses the events in our lives to lead and guide us…. Even illness and having children…. All the stuff that happens to us….
let´s continue in our text for this morning…. Acts 16….v11….
Acts 16: 11- 15 NKJV
11 Therefore, sailing from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, and the next day came to Neapolis, 12 and from there to Philippi, which is the foremost city of that part of Macedonia, a colony. And we were staying in that city for some days. 13 And on the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the women who met there. 14 Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul. 15 And when she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” So she persuaded us.
Sailing from Troas: Paul and his missionary team (now including Luke) had to sail across the Agean Sea, from the continent of Asia to the continent of Europe. This was a big step, perhaps bigger than Paul even knew!
Acts 16: 11- 15 slt 2000
11 So fuhren wir denn [mit dem Schiff] von Troas ab und kamen geradewegs nach Samothrace und am folgenden Tag nach Neapolis
12 und von dort nach Philippi, welches die bedeutendste Stadt jenes Teils von Mazedonien ist, eine [römische] Kolonie1. Wir hielten uns aber in dieser Stadt etliche Tage auf.
13 Und am Sabbattag gingen wir vor die Stadt hinaus, an den Fluß, wo man zu beten pflegte;2 und wir setzten uns und redeten zu den Frauen, die zusammengekommen waren.
14 Und eine gottesfürchtige Frau namens Lydia, eine Purpurhändlerin aus der Stadt Thyatira, hörte zu; und der Herr tat ihr das Herz auf, so daß sie aufmerksam achtgab auf das, was von Paulus geredet wurde.
15 Als sie aber getauft worden war und auch ihr Haus3, bat sie und sprach: Wenn ihr davon überzeugt seid, daß ich an den Herrn gläubig bin, so kommt in mein Haus und bleibt dort! Und sie nötigte uns.
v11….. a straight course….. This is a sailing term…. It means that the wind was at their backs and pushing them quickly along….. They made the trip in 1 day…. Later it will take them 5 days to go the other direction…. Paul's goal was to plant churches in the major cities first…… He knew that it was easier for the gospel to spread from these cities than to these cities…… The missionary team…. Paul, Silas, Timothy and Luke…. Sailed from Troas to the Macedonian port of Neapolis….. (the port city of Philippi),
Neapolis is the port city; Philippi itself lies 10 miles (16 kilometers) inland…..
There’s no indication that Paul preached at Neapolis…… the missionaries seem to go directly to Philippi…… which is a “Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia….. It became almost as important as Rome over the years…
v13… On the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made….. The fact that the Jews had no synagogue and met by the river means that there were not many Jewish men in Philippi.
v14… Lydia … was a seller of purple….. The dyes used for making purple were expensive and highly regarded…… She was an influential business person…..
Thyatira was well known as a center for this purple dye and fabric made from it….. Later on there was a church in Thyatira also…… and it is one of the seven churches in Revelation 2:18-29…..
v14b…. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul……. Notice that even before Lydia was converted…….. the Lord opened her heart……. This is a work God must do in all who become believers….. because as Jesus said…… no one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him…. John 6:44…..
We see here that the most important element in evangelism…. is asking God through diligent prayer to open hearts…… without this there can be no genuine conversion…….
v15…. She begged us, saying, "If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay." Immediately Lydia set about doing good….. Her hospitality is touching and a wonderful example to us of someone whose life has been transformed by the Holy Spirit….. The Lord touched her heart…… And she gladly opened her home to Paul and the others…… Genuine believers serve the Lord best when they open their hands and hearts to the needs of their brothers and sisters …. And to the lost…
New Years Resolutions….? Forget it…. Make life resolutions like Jonathan Edwards….
Jonathan Edwards was the greatest American Theologian of the 18th century…. As a young man….
he made 70 life resolutions….. He worked on them for the rest of His life…
If you are considering your own resolutions for this year…… there are at least three elements to Jonathan Edwards’s resolutions we can use in developing our own…...
1. Always pursue God’s glory…….. The Westminster Shorter Catechism tells us that our purpose in life is to glorify God and enjoy him forever…... Edwards’s life resolutions reflect this purpose…….
2. They were life resolutions, not temporary ones…… The resolutions Edwards made were lifetime goals…… These were resolutions that he shaped his life around and by which he measured himself…….
3. He drew from God’s strength…… These words precede his list of resolutions: Knowing that I am unable to do anything without God’s help….. I do humbly beg him by his grace to make me able to keep these Resolutions…… . Edwards knew that he depended upon God’s grace for all things…… No amount of will power…. and no matter how good our intentions……. we cannot do anything apart from the grace of God at work in us……. Whatever our goals and resolutions…… we must humbly depend upon Christ….. and rely on his grace to enable us…..
The essence of what it means to live the Christian Life…..
We could talk about the law and rules…. We could talk about the way we interact with others…. We could talk about the Christian character that we are expected to exhibit….
The issue is not what we do…. It is who we are….. the issue is our hearts….. we as sinners stand in desperate need of a heart transplant….. We need God to take out our hearts of stone and give a heart of flesh… We need Him to put His Holy Spirit in us…. So that we want to do what we should….. John Calvin said it this way…..We can think of the essence of the Christian life this way…. The basic motive and the basic principle…. Why do we live the Christian life…. What guides our decisions?
The basic motive….. is found in the fact that God so loved the world that he sent His only Son to save us and because of His sacrifice we can be saved and when we repent of our sins and cry out to Him….. We are redeemed and adopted into His family….. Now out of gratitude and thankfulness we want to look like the rest of our family… we want to reflect the Lord Jesus who saved and transformed us…. We want to please our Heavenly Father….
That takes us to the Basic principle….
1…. We give up the right to determine for ourselves what is right and wrong….. We rely on God´s Word to teach us right from wrong….
2… We stop putting ourselves first…. We put the Lord first in everything….. We put others before ourselves too…. We always look to what please God and demonstrates love to our neighbors….
3…. We have no part of our lives that is not given over to the Lord….. Everything that we have…. And everything that we are….. belongs to the Lord….
In saying these things Calvin agrees with Paul……. Here´s what Paul wrote to the Ephesians…. Eph 2:1- 10
Ephesians 2:1- 10 NKJV
1 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
Ephesians 2:1-10 SLT 2000
1 — auch euch, die ihr tot wart durch Übertretungen und Sünden,
2 in denen ihr einst gelebt habt nach dem Lauf dieser Welt1, gemäß dem Fürsten, der in der Luft herrscht, dem Geist, der jetzt in den Söhnen des Ungehorsams2 wirkt;
3 unter ihnen führten auch wir alle einst unser Leben in den Begierden unseres Fleisches, indem wir den Willen3 des Fleisches und der Gedanken taten; und wir waren von Natur Kinder des Zorns, wie auch die anderen.
4 Gott aber, der reich ist an Erbarmen, hat um seiner großen Liebe willen, mit der er uns geliebt hat,
5 auch uns, die wir tot waren durch die Übertretungen, mit dem Christus lebendig gemacht — aus Gnade seid ihr errettet! —
6 und hat uns mitauferweckt und mitversetzt in die himmlischen [Regionen] in Christus Jesus,
7 damit er in den kommenden Weltzeiten den überschwenglichen Reichtum seiner Gnade in Güte an uns erweise in Christus Jesus.
8 Denn aus Gnade seid ihr errettet durch den Glauben, und das nicht aus euch — Gottes Gabe ist es;
9 nicht aus Werken, damit niemand sich rühme.
10 Denn wir sind seine Schöpfung4, erschaffen in Christus Jesus zu guten Werken, die Gott zuvor bereitet hat, damit wir in ihnen wandeln sollen.
v1-3…. We were dead in our sin and rebellion…..
v4…. But God because of His great love....
7…. We are trophies of God´s grace…… In His kindness…. He puts our transformed lives on display for the lost and dying world to see…. They look at us and say….. There is hope….. There is forgiveness…… Jesus….
v8,9…. Salvation…. It is a gift… It is not anything that we have done… so we cannot boast….
v10… this verse is very important….. We have been saved for a purpose… God has a plan for us…. He has work for us to do….
Saved us by His grace….
Since we are saved by Grace…… there is nothing that God cannot ask of us….. We have been redeemed…… As Paul wrote to the Corinthians…. We were bought with a price….. 1 Corinthians 6:20….